Ottheinrich's Bible

Ottheinrich's Bible – Faksimile Verlag – Cgm 8010/1.2 – Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich, Germany)

Regensburg (Germany) β€” 1425–1430 and ca. 1530

A masterpiece of German Gothic and Renaissance art adorned with magnificent gold miniatures: the first illustrated New Testament Bible in the German language

  1. Work on the β€œfirst illustrated New Testament edition in German” began in Regensburg in the 14th century

  2. It was completed 100 years later in the style of the German Renaissance with 46 miniatures altogether

  3. Count Palatine Ottheinrich von der Pfalz commissioned inter alia Matthias Gerung (about 1500–1570) with the completion of the 8-volume masterpiece

Ottheinrich's Bible

Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Ottheinrich's Bible

Work began on β€œfirst illustrated New Testament edition in German” ca. 1430 in Regensburg. The rich ornamentation of manuscript originates from the hands of several important masters of the β€œRegensburg School” of the 14th century and was completed 100 years later in the style of the German Renaissance. The enigma of the work’s patron was only solved a few years ago, with sources pointing to Duke Ludwig β€œthe Bearded” of Bavaria-Ingolstadt. The Ottheinrich Bible is currently housed in Munich and the highly coveted manuscript has had quite the checkered past in terms of ownership. 46 half- or full-page miniatures with luminous golden backgrounds and vivid, eye-catching colors made from the most expensive materials. The text, neatly written in two columns, is adorned by 41 brushed gold initials and countless smaller initials in red ink.

Ottheinrich’s Bible

Named after its traceable owner, the Ottheinrich Bible is the oldest preserved German language edition of the New Testament. Next to the German text, the manuscript distinguishes itself above all because of its illumination. The work originates from several important masters of the Regensburg School during the 14th century and was fully completed 100 years later with the creation of the furnishings by Matthias Gerung in the style of the German Renaissance. The checkered ownership history of the bible testifies to its unique place in Art History.

The First Illustrated New Testament in German

As opposed to the Latin version of the bible, which could only be read by highly educated people and the clergy, the Ottheinrich Bible is written in New High German and was therefore understandable to a layperson. The 46 half- or full-page miniatures shine through the application of expensive materials, e.g. the golden backgrounds or the vivid, eye-catching colors, which are made for the most part with equally expensive mineral and other materials like azure or magenta. Next to the panel-painting-like primary images, which illustrate the biblical text, one cannot help but be fascinated by the sweeping and skillfully draped tendrils, which appear more commonly at the beginning and then less often later on, and artfully designed colored or gilded initials. With regard to the artists of the older illumination, three different masters can be distinguished, who most certainly worked on this Bible in Regensburg. Some originated from the so-called Salzburg Studio of the Grillinger Bible and from the circle of the important Masters of the Worchester Carrying of the Cross. The work of these artists is limited to the Gospel of Mark. The painter Matthias Gerung was primarily responsible for the greater part of the interior of the manuscript. He oriented his work on the greatest works of his time. Thus, his Apocalypse miniatures were directly influenced by Albrecht DΓΌrer’s woodcarvings.

The Enigmatic Patron

The patron of the Ottheinrich Bible was only recently determined to be Duke Ludwig β€œthe Bearded” of Bavaria-Ingolstadt. Before his rule, he spent a long time in the French court with his sister Elizabeth, the French Queen Isabella of Bavaria. In a leafy border of the book, a French motto is incorporated, which became a trademark for him. Mysteriously, the manuscript was never completed during the lifetime of Ludwig, but was still bound for the most part.

A Checkered Past of Ownership

Ludwig’s inheritance would be passed down through the Landshut branch of the Wittelsbach family, and thereby came into the possession of Count Palatine Ottheinrich, who would lend it his name. The book was later sent to Neuburg an der Donau and finally to Heidelberg. It was Ottheinrich who commissioned Matthias Gerung to complete the book. During the confusion of the 30 Years War, the book was brought to Munich in 1622 as war booty by the Prince Elector Maximillian I of Bavaria, from whence it was subsequently taken in 1632 by invading Swedes to Weimar and finally to Gotha. The Ottheinrich Bible remained in Gotha for the next three hundred years and was a highlight of their collection known as the Gothaic Bible. In the 19th century, the book was parted into eight pieces and ended up in the 20th century in two parts; one half ended up in Heidelberg and the other in Munich’s Bavarian State Library in the course of the 20th century. The empty cover remained in Gotha. Only in 2007 were all the individual parts of the Ottheinrich Bible brought back together through the spectacular acquisitions effort and generous donations and today calls the Bavarian State Library home.


Alternative Titles
Gothaer Bibel
Size / Format
616 pages / 53.2 Γ— 37.2 cm
1425–1430 and ca. 1530
46 miniatures on a gold leaf background, 41 brushed gold initials
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Count Palatine Ottheinrich (1502–1559)
Munich Court Library

Available facsimile editions:
Ottheinrich's Bible – Faksimile Verlag – Cgm 8010/1.2 – Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich, Germany)
Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 2002
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Detail Picture

Ottheinrich's Bible

Feeding the Five Thousand

As Passover drew near, Jesus came to the Sea of Galilee with his disciples where they were confronted with a logistical problem: how to feed his five thousand followers assembled there. This golden miniature shows the commotion of the crowd: β€œAnd when He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fish He divided among them all. So they all ate and were filled.” (Mk. 6:41-42)

Ottheinrich's Bible – Faksimile Verlag – Cgm 8010/1.2 – Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich, Germany)
Single Page

Ottheinrich's Bible

The Adoration of the Magi

This is just a taste of this precious and coveted manuscript’s unbelievably rich illumination. A pink frame studded with precious jewels mounted in gold fittings surrounds this beloved scene. The background consists of burnished gold that has not only been engraved with a tendril pattern, but is further adorned with blue and red leaves.

Mary and Joseph are pictured wearing crowns and luxurious robes, they and the rest of the figures are dressed in the fashion of 15th century nobility. Curiously, Mary has a halo, but neither her husband nor her blessed son do. Dressed in a red cloak beautifully patterned with cloth of gold, one of the Magi kneels before the Holy Family, presenting them with a gift as the rest of his entourage looks on.

Ottheinrich's Bible – Faksimile Verlag – Cgm 8010/1.2 – Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich, Germany)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Ottheinrich-Bibel

Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 2002

Publisher: Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 2002
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Binding: Similar to the binding of 1558 (UniversitΓ€tsbibliothek Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ. 833) the binding of the facsimile edition is decorated with rich gold and blind tooling, eight bosses and four clasps. The front cover shows Ottheinrich's portrait in gold tooling; the back cover is ornate with Ottheinrich's coat of arms as Elector Palatine. All embossing dies are precisely reworked by hand in an elaborate process.
Commentary: 1 volume (245 pages) by Robert Suckale, Jeffrey Hamburger, Brigitte Gullath, and Karin Schneider
Language: German
1 volume: This facsimile is not complete. 156 pages are reproduced. Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
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